Quartzsite, Arizona, has been the site of the largest RV show and flea market in the U.S. since 1984. 750,000 to over 1 Million RV enthusiasts from all across America make the trek to Quartzsite in early January to partake of this annual event. Organizers boast it will be “the largest gathering of RVs and RVers on earth,” and that the main exhibit area is capable of handling the expected crowd with over 69,000 square feet of fully carpeted space. Although other shows run from October through April, the RV show is scheduled from January 19th through the 27th.
Two other couples will be joining Susan and me on this “Adventure,” Bob and Jan Samples and Johnathan and Angela Bonanno, fellow members of the Modern Wagoneers Good Sam Club. The trip will take us more than 2,700 miles and consume over 300 gallons of diesel averaging 9.2 mpg.
Above, the travelers conduct their organizational meeting over dinner the weekend before departure.
We left Oklahoma City under overcast skies. Interstate 40 through Amarillo and into New Mexico can experience heavy snowstorms this time of year. In order to avoid inclement weather and dangerous driving conditions along the route, we agreed to take the southern route through Wichita Falls and connect with I-20 to I-10 West.
The first day of our trip would have put us in Midland, Texas, which is 434 miles from Oklahoma City. But because that distance can be tiring when towing RVs, we opted to meet up a day early and at our individual convenience in Wichita Falls, thereby leaving only 300 miles of travel (4:45 hrs) the second day of the trip. This also gave us the opportunity to visit Susan’s daughter, Katherine, who’s stationed at Sheppard AFB.
Below, a group picture with Katherine after dinner in the Samples’ coach.
We awoke to dreary skies the following morning, but the sun began to break through as we neared Midland.
Below, is the courthouse in Anson, Texas. I’m always intrigued by courthouses we come upon during our travels (I wonder why?), especially those out West . . . .
Below, windmills and refineries – competing sources of energy. In the long run, I hope the refineries win; otherwise, “The Adventure” may someday come to a close for lack of diesel funds.
Upon our arrival in Midland, a recent, and much needed, downpour of rain left deep puddles of water throughout the RV park. In fact, many RV sites were inaccessible because of deep, standing water.
To my knowledge, there are only two respectable RV parks along I-20 through Midland. The “Midland RV Park,” where we stayed this trip, and the “Midland/Odessa Oil Patch RV Park,” where Susan and I stayed on a previous trip through the Midland area. I prefer the latter. Both parks have gravel drives and pads, but in my opinion, the overall condition of the Midland/Odessa park is much better. In such circumstances, Susan often says, “It’s not a resort, only a place to sleep!.”
All agreed that we’d try to contain costs by preparing most meals in the coaches along the way. This is certainly my preference since you simply can’t find better food in any restaurant!
Below, Johnathan and Angie serve up Johnathan’s famous smoked ribs, while the Samples provide coleslaw and baked beans . . . .
Our next stop will be west of El Paso in Anthony, Texas. As a group, we try to travel no more than 300 miles in a day (about 4 hours). The short distance prevents us from being fatigued upon our arrival at the RV park for the evening, and also allows us ample daylight to setup the coaches, prepare dinner, and relax with a game of cards, television, or DVD movie.
Below, a brief rest area break on the road to Anthony . . . .
Bob and Jan agreed to coordinate the trip out to Quartzsite and choose the RV parks along the route. Because the crime rate has risen sharply in El Paso in recent years, the Samples felt we’d be safer staying on the outskirts of El Paso. Bob and Jan chose “American RV Park” in Anthony, which is situated directly behind the local Camping World.
As you can see in the above picture, this park gave us a beautiful view of the nearby mountain range. And from an RVer’s perspective, every site was “pull-thru” with sewer hookups at both ends. Full hard-surface parking and the adjacent Camping World makes this park hard to beat. Good choice Bob and Jan!
The drive from Anthony to legendary Tombstone offered beautiful scenery and interesting skies . . . .
We made reservations at the Stampede RV Park & Restaurant in Tombstone.
They serve breakfast daily from 7:15 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. But, I don’t recommend it! Click on the upper-left picture to enlarge it and you’ll see that the owner collects junk and stacks it all around the outside of the home/office/restaurant. The inside of the establishment is just as cluttered, and the kitchen and dining area was filthy. Moreover, the breakfast gravy had a funny taste, and when Johnathan asked for coffee cream, he was given spoiled milk. Likely, the spoiled milk was the reason for the funny-tasting gravy. Yuck!
The park, itself, was gravel, confined, and lacked easy access to the utility connections. Because of its tight space, backing into assigned sites was difficult with 40-foot rigs. But, hey, what can you expect in Tombstone? We’re here to see history, and we don’t expect to find a 5-star resort!
The desert southwest experienced an unusual cold front during our visit. The low temperature on our first night in Tombstone dropped to 17 degrees, but the second night dropped even lower to 14 degrees!
Pipes were bursting throughout the area and the locals didn’t know how to react. Thankfully, the coaches stayed cozy, and other than a small break in the exposed ice-maker line under our slide, nobody experienced any plumbing problems as a result of the cold snap.
Of all our travels, visiting Tombstone ranks next to Hawaii, at least for me. I’ve always been fascinated with the “Old West,” particularly historic boarder towns. Tombstone, Arizona was founded in 1879 and is situated in Cochise County, Arizona, just south of I-10.
Sadly, Tombstone has changed considerably since my last visit in 1983. The original buildings and old west atmosphere remains, but a strong commercial aspect has since taken over what was once almost a ghost town.
The movie, “Tombstone,” starring Kurt Russell as Wyatt Earp, was released in December 1993, and obviously rejuvenated Tombstone’s tourism and local economy. On my previous visit in 1983, a walk down the boardwalk streets of yesteryear was marked with the passing of a lone “stranger,” and the faint odor of musty leather and dust. Today, those same boardwalk streets have been barricaded at each end to prevent traffic from interfering with regularly scheduled gunfight reenactments, and the odors that lingered from the late 1880s into the 1980s, are no more. But, the newfound economy may continue to preserve Tombstone as “The Town too Tough to Die.”
Above, “Tombstone Courthouse and State Historic Park,” is the former Cochise County Courthouse originally built in 1882. It is the site of several hangings, which are reflected in the following pictures . . . .
Below, are photos of the courthouse interior . . . .
Following, are photos from the streets of Tombstone and local saloons . . . .
Below, is “Big Nose Kate’s Saloon & Restaurant.” Big Nose Kate was said to be Doc Holiday’s longtime girlfriend.
Below, Johnathan said to the waiter, “I want a big ass beer!” That’s exactly what the waiter brought him . . . .
The following pictures are of the “Crystal Palace Saloon,” which is said to be the “best historically accurate saloon” by “True West Magazine.”
Here, we met a local who portrays the town marshal. Below, he displays his 1881 Commemorative Wyatt Earp .22 cal. pistol, which he claimed once belonged to Josephine Earp, Wyatt Earp’s widow . . . .
The historic “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral” took place on October 26, 1881. Virgil, Wyatt, and Morgan Earp, along with Doc Holiday, engaged in a 30-shot firefight in the lot behind the corral. After the smoked cleared, Tom McLaury, Frank McLaury, and 19-year-old Billy Clanton were dead. Both Virgil and Morgan were seriously wounded, while Doc suffered a superficial hip would. Wyatt walked away unscathed.
Above is the reenactment of the famous gunfight and the outlaws’ graves at Boothill Cemetery. Below, are a few additional pictures of graves at Boothill . . . .
The view from high upon Boothill is spectacular . . . .
Below, is a statue standing in tribute to the lawman, Wyatt Earp . . . .
Above, Wyatt Earp’s Tombstone home and his personal saddle. Below, the Oriental Saloon, where Earp obtained an interest in the gambling concession upon his arrival in Tombstone . . . .
And, below, “The Tombstone Epitaph,” the newspaper that enlightened the world about the famous gunfight on the streets of Tombstone . . . .
Although the foregoing sights are truly fascinating, the jewel of the entire trip, before and after our stop in Tombstone, has to be the “Bird Cage Theatre.” If ghosts exists anywhere, the Bird Cage is where they can be found.
The interior of the theatre is very well preserved, and the curators strive to retain the original appearance while visitors view the building and artifacts up close.
Click on the above left picture to enlarge, and read about “Fatima,” an original oriental belly dancer who played the Bird Cage in 1881.
In the lower right picture (above), Curly Bill Brocius, who murdered Marshal Fred White in 1880, was recognized while getting a haircut in this chair. He was later tracked down by Wyatt Earp and killed. In the picture below, bullet holes can be seen in the ceiling where cowboys fired into the air during stage performances.
Pictured below are several views from behind, and under, the stage . . . .
Brothels were common in the wild west of the late 1800s, and Tombstone was no exception. In fact, the “bordello room,” pictured below, is situated in the basement of the Bird Cage Theatre and was used by Josephine Marcus, also known as “Sadie Jo,” who was later married to Wyatt Earp until his death in 1929.
Below is “Sadie Jo’s” license to engage in her profession, which, by the way, was signed by Wyatt Earp . . . .
Click on the above pictures to enlarge, and observe the “Notice to Female Employees” posted in the hallway of the Bird Cage Theatre bordello (right).
Tombstone is a “must see” if you’re ever in the area! And, by all means, don’t miss the Bird Cage Theatre. It alone, is a destination location in my opinion. If you go, plan on spending at least two (2) nights in Tombstone to see all it has to offer, and for more information, visit http://www.tombstoneweb.com/
After a fulfilling visit to Tombstone, we readied the coaches for the short trip to Tucson (70 miles). There, we would spend the next three nights at the “Far Horizons Tucson Village,” which is an upscale RV resort. www.tucsonvillage.com
Far Horizons is mostly a warm-climate retirement village, but reserves several nice sites for temporary visitors.
Parked across from us was my “dream coach,” a full-body-paint Mobile Suites . . . .
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m very pleased with our San Antonio. But, as I constantly remind my wife, every man has to have a dream and continue to strive to reach a goal. Otherwise, what does all his effort accomplish? In reality, she need not worry. At $130K, it will likely remain only a “dream.”
During our 3-night stay in Tucson, we had the opportunity to visit the “Pima Air & Space Museum,” which is one of the largest aviation museums in the world.
The museum maintains five hangers full of unique aviation history, plus an additional 80-acre outdoor aircraft exhibit.
Various aircraft are pictured above, such as SR-71 Blackbird “Spy Plane” (top right), and the Fairchild A-10A Thunderbolt II, “Warthog” (center), which carries a 30mm rotary cannon that can fire up to 4200 rounds per minute. The A-10 proved its worth in the 1990-91 Persian Gulf War by destroying several thousand Iraqi tanks and other enemy vehicles.
The hangers also housed two additional planes of special interest to me, the B-17G “Flying Fortress,” and the B-29 “Superfortress.”
Below, are several views of the B-17G . . . .
What a magnificent war bird! Unfortunately, time did not allow us to view the B-29. But, that gives us reason to revisit Tucson real soon!
The outdoor exhibit was also impressive . . . .
If you click on the lower-right picture (above), you’ll notice the piston sticking out through the engine cowling. When the plane was being ferried to the museum to be placed on display, the engine threw the piston on landing approach to the runway.
The following photos are aircraft previously designated “Air Force One,” which were both used by presidents Kennedy and Johnson . . . .
Those of you who are loyal followers of this blog may remember our submission from May 2010, when we visited the LBJ Ranch near Johnson City, Texas. One of the photos of the grounds surrounding the ranch reveals President Johnson’s private airstrip, which was used to land his small business jet (below) . . . .
The pictures seen here of the “Pima Air & Space Museum” are just a sampling of the many aircraft of display. If you have an interest in aviation, I strongly recommend you take the time to visit this museum if you find yourself in the Tucson area. For more information, visit www.pimaair.org
Our dear friends, Johnathan and Angela Bonanno, who accompanied us on this trip with the Samples, paid their respect at the Tucson graves of Johnathan’s grandparents and uncle. Johnathan never met his relatives, but had the opportunity to speak with his uncle by telephone before he passed away.
Our original plan called for all three couples to dry-camp (no utilities) in the Quartzsite desert. But as our departure time from Tucson grew closer, Susan and I made a few calls to nearby Quartzsite RV parks to see if any available sites remain. The more we discussed it, we both agreed that we’re simply too “soft” to camp out. After all, that’s why we bought a 41-foot condo on wheels.
Surprisingly, we received a return call from “Black Rock RV Village” in Brenda, Arizona. www.blackrockrv.com
Brenda is just 14 miles east of Quartzsite, and the park had three remaining sites with full hookups. It also had an adjacent cafe that served an excellent breakfast. The Samples chose to stay the course and dry-camp, but the Bonannos agreed to join us in Brenda.
Upon leaving Tucson, Susan and I made a brief stop in Phoenix to visit my mother’s sister, Bobbie Lavato, while the Bonannos continued west to Brenda where we would join up with them later that evening.
The Arizona desert has clear, open skies that make for a beautiful starlit night and cozy campfire . . . .
And, thanks to my friend and fellow Heartland Chapter member, Mike Finnegan, the clear night sky gave me my first opportunity to try out our new flag light . . . .
The next morning, we joined up with the Samples at our destination point - Quartzsite!
RVs were parked everywhere throughout the desert surrounding the rally.
The best way to describe this phenomena is through the following pictorial . . . .
The Rock & Gem Show, Sell-A-Rama, and Art & Craft Fair, are all produced by Tyson Wells, and as depicted in the above pictures, the rally takes on the atmosphere of a carnival or state fair.
We did see some very nice RVs for sale. In fact, the diesel coach in the lower left picture had just sold . . . .
Below, Susan tries out a motorized scooter, while I couldn’t help but photograph “Flo,” who bares a striking resemblance to my younger sister . . . .
This rally was packed with some wild and crazy sights . . . .
The craziest sight we experienced, however, had to be “the naked book-seller!” Yes, Susan and Angela were on a mission to find this character. A few of our fellow RV friends (you know who you are), insisted that we go to his bookstore and see him while we were in Quartzsite. Not only did we see him, but the girls had their picture made with him.
In an effort to maintain the dignity of this blog, and to avoid the embarrassment it may cause my wife and Angie at a later date, I share only the following pictures with you . . . .
Regrettably, I’m afraid I’ll associate the “naked book-seller’s” image with Quartzsite the rest of my life. Seriously, the annual Quartzsite rally is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Meaning that every serious RVer should see it at least once. For additional information, visit www.quartzsitervshow.com/
With the Quartzsite experience behind us (no pun intended), a decision had to be made as to which route we’d take home. A review of The National Weather Service forecast, satellite, and radar images, revealed no inclement weather down the I-40 corridor for several days. So, the Bonannos continued on with us to Lake Havasu City, where we’d connect with I-40 East, while the Samples remained a few days longer in Quartzsite. The Samples would eventually drive north through Lake Havasu City, but would continue on to Bullhead City, Arizona, where they would extend their trip and visit additional sites.
We took Arizona State Highway 95 North, which is a very scenic route into Lake Havasu City.
We called ahead and made reservations for a single-night stay at “Havasu Falls RV Resort.” This is another upscale RV resort along the bank of the Colorado River.
Robert P. McCulloch, Sr., manufacturer of the “McCulloch Chain Saw,” and Chairman of McCulloch Oil Corporation, established Lake Havasu City in 1963.
Recall from your childhood the nursery rhyme and singing game, “London Bridge is Falling Down.” The song dates back to as early as the 17th Century, and relates to the City of London’s efforts to repair the depredated bridge.
McCulloch purchased the bridge from the City of London for $2.5 million in 1968. The bridge was disassembled, each piece marked for identification, shipped to Lake Havasu City, and reassembled at an additional cost of $7 million. The bridge was opened to the public on October 5, 1971.
It’s said that “the London Bridge is the 2nd most visited tourist attraction in Arizona, behind only the Grand Canyon.”
In the above pictures, the photograph situated to the lower-left is the roadway atop of the London Bridge. Susan insisted that we drive across it!
Below, we dined at “Barley Brothers Brewery & Grill,” which is immediately adjacent to the Bridge. Johnathan ordered the Brewery’s “beer sampler.”
Following a good night’s rest, the four of us began the trek home.
I think everyone had mixed feelings about the trip coming to an end. We were tired and had obligations waiting for us at home, but at the same time, this had been a truly enjoyable experience.
But the fun was not yet over! We spent our first night on the road home just west of Winslow, Arizona, at “Meteor Crater RV Park.”
If you’re headed west through Arizona and need a place to camp for the night, I recommend this park. The employees are friendly and helpful, and although the park and sites are gravel (the upscale RV resorts spoiled me), it is well organized and maintained. For additional information on both the RV park and Meteor Crater attraction, visit www.meteorcrater.com
Our drive to the crater site offered some interesting photo ops . . . .
Susan and I had seen the crater before, but this was a new experience for Johnathan and Angie!
Scientists believe the impact upon the earth’s surface occurred over 50,000 years ago. The crater measures “nearly a mile across and more than 550 feet deep.” Because the crater’s terrain resembles the surface of the moon, it was once used as an official training site for NASA’s Apollo astronauts.
The gift shop carries many interesting items. Susan and I always try to find some keepsake to take home from our extended travels . . . .
After viewing the crater and visiting the gift shop, we headed east toward New Mexico. We’d spend the night at “American RV Park” in Albuquerque, but Susan and I always make it a point to stop for lunch in Gallup at “El Rancho.” In our opinion, this is the finest “New Mexican” food anywhere (except for that my mother makes)!
“El Rancho” originally opened in December 1937. It was established by the brother of movie magnate, D.W. Griffith, who is credited with many of the motion pictures made in the Gallup area. Movie stars like John Wayne, Ronald Reagan, Spencer Tracy, Katherine Hepburn, and Kirk Douglas, frequented the establishment, which also has an elegant hotel. The famous movie stars of yesteryear are long gone, but the ambiance remains . . . .
“El Rancho” has no website, but it’s located at Exit 22, 1000 East 66 Avenue, Gallup, New Mexico 87301, (505) 863-9311.
Below, is a view of the Sandia Mountains as we reach the valley rim overlooking Albuquerque . . . .
We’d only have one more night on the road after leaving Albuquerque. Because several weeks of winter remains, Johnathan and I agreed it would be best to winterize the coaches the next morning in Amarillo before leaving for Oklahoma City.
The last time we came through Tucumcari, New Mexico, the Chamber of Commerce was initiating a campaign to restore many of the old Route 66 gas stations through the center of town. It appears by the following picture that they may be making some progress . . . .
The “Oasis RV Resort,” at Exit 60 on the west end of Amarillo, is a regular overnight stay for Susan and me. All sites are concrete with full hookups. It’s a great place to winterize, provided the cold, north wind isn’t blowing.
Susan and Maynard rest in the coach (lower left) before we join the Bonannos for the limousine ride to the “Big Texan” steakhouse (lower right) . . . .
The final day of the trip has arrived, and the coaches are winterized and we’re headed home. Shamrock, Texas is about halfway to Oklahoma City from Amarillo, and serves as a great place to stop for lunch. Below, a restored Route 66 business on Main Street in Shamrock . . . .
I remember most of these old Route 66 establishments from my childhood. My mother and her family are from Albuquerque and, before the opening of I-40, my family would make frequent trips to visit our relatives via Route 66. It’s so good to see the local communities along the “Mother Road” taking an interest in keeping this history alive.
I’ve written about “Big Vern’s Steakhouse” in previous segments of this blog, and the food and service remain excellent.
“Big Vern’s” is open Sunday-Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Saturday, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. It’s situated at 200 E. 12th on Historic Route 66. (806) 256-2088.
Susan and I wish to thank the Bonannos and Samples for helping make this trip possible, and for sharing their photos!
See you on the road!